That night, after everyone went home or to bed, I went into the bathroom.  I took out our set of clippers and started shaving off my hair.  Each buzz dropped dark locks into the sink, leaving only a soft ruff.  I looked at the strange face in the mirror.  I doubted demons would recognize it right away.  Part of it was defensive:  I might not be recognized for a while, and also, the one demon had managed to get a good handhold on my longer hair during our fight.  Now, it wouldn’t be a disadvantage.

            My friends commented on it at first when I returned to school.  I dropped by the common room on our floor Sunday night, just to say hello.

            “You lose a bet or something?” Dan joked.  I glared at him and left the room.  “Was it something I said?”  I heard him say to Teri.

            I brooded for days, leaving my room only to go to classes or the gym, moving silently down the halls.  I heard Evan quietly tell Dan to “back off, his uncle just died…” but I didn’t look at them.  I withdrew into my own world.

            None of my friends could ever understand why.  They saw it as a regression back to the way I behaved earlier in the year.  Little did they realize that I was doing it to protect them.  I couldn’t let them get involved.  It was too dangerous.

            Exams approached, and everyone got busy studying, cramming for finals.  It was easy to let socializing fall by the wayside.  I made myself mentally ready for my tests and continued to train myself physically for the real test.  Sooner or later I would face my supernatural enemies again.

             I finished my exams.  I packed my things.  My father picked me up in my uncle’s pick-up truck, which almost made me feel uncomfortable.  We loaded up my luggage and drove home, with an almost uneventful ride.

            I say “almost,” because I fully expected a demonic attack.  I had no illusions that changing my appearance remotely distracted them for long.  If they had any surveillance of my life, they would know where I lived, who I spent time with, my class schedule.  I suspected they were trying to lull me into false security, as regular life had a rhythm of its own.  Classes had continued, people talked about banalities, watched their favourite television shows.  It was easy to wonder if I was delusional.

            Whenever “real life” threatened to make me forget my mission, I would take out the sword and revolver and remember where they came from.  Alone in my dorm room, I reminded myself of my purpose.  So now I sat in my dead uncle’s truck, expecting to need the weapons hidden in my backpack.  And no attack came, not even on empty country roads.  The only event of the whole trip was when my father turned to me after parking in our driveway, and handed me the keys.

            “It’s yours.”

            “Huh?” I said, insightfully.

            “The truck.  He set it aside in his will.  Along with money for tuition.”

            I didn’t know what to say.  My dad put a comforting hand on my shoulder and went inside.  I just sat in my truck for a few moments, and then followed.

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